[Dave Birch] I was listening to the BBC’s lunchtime magazine programme the other day when they had a story about the huge and growing problem of metal theft in the UK. Nothing made of metal is safe. The lead from the roofs of listed buildings, the copper from phone cables and even statues are at the mercy of thieves.

Grainy CCTV footage shows two crooks taking 40 minutes to remove the sculpture from its plinth. They then carry it to their light-coloured car before speeding off.

[From Thieves take bronze statue of WWII soldier from garrison town’s war memorial | Mail Online]

Which did make me wonder, by the way, what on Earth the point of the CCTV was. But anyway. This is causing transport disruption as thieves steal signalling cable, communications disruption and people steal telecommunications cable and so on.

British Transport police say they need tougher powers to combat the growing problem of metal theft from our railways.

[From BBC – BBC Radio 4 Programmes – You and Yours, 25/10/2010, Scrap Metal]

So, what is to be done and what on earth does this have to do with the future of transactions? Well, one of the policemen interviewed said that they wanted the government to introduce a law that you can’t sell metal for scrap without identifying yourself. He said it would have to be the law, because any scrap dealers who have voluntary asked for proof of identity have found half of their business vanishing. In other words, half of this trade is bent: it’s either people who are selling stolen metal, or people who are selling legitimately-acquired metal but trying to evade tax, or both.

What to do? Well, the British government recently introduced an “e-petitions” programme. Under this programme, they have created a web site where you can file and sign online petitions. If your petition can get 100,000 signatures, then the topic will be debated in Parliament. They don’t promise to do anything about it, but they do promise to at least discuss it. Naturally I assume that the system is rigged, because my obviously sensible petition to establish a timetable for getting rid of notes and coins only has seven votes (you can vote for it here). The link is that I was curious to discover that, at the time of writing, one of the top (i.e., on the first page) petitions is to abolish cash payments for scrap metal.

An amendment to the Scrap Metal Merchants Act 1964 to prohibit cash transactions would make payment by cheque or directly into a bank account mandatory and would be a significant component in reducing metal theft.

[From Cashless Scrap Metal Trade – Amendment to Scrap Metal Merchants Act 1964 – e-petitions]

A sound policy for a better Britain indeed, but this turns out to be a global phenomenon and similar laws are being enacted elsewhere, including in France.

as of September 1, 2011, anyone attempting to sell or purchase ferrous or non-ferrous metals (isn’t this all metals? Ed.), including gold and silver, will be required to pay for their purchase via a credit card or bank wire transfer if it exceeds 450€… According to independent reports the law was passed to curb the illegal sale of stolen metals like copper, steel, etc.

[From Jesse’s Café Américain: Currency Wars: Restricting Gold and Silver Sales in France]

As the poster notes, however, the law has a secondary impact.

However, the fact that no exception was made for gold and silver simply cannot be ignored. The new law effectively makes it illegal to purchase even a single Troy ounce of gold or around 18 ounces of silver in cash.

[From Jesse’s Café Américain: Currency Wars: Restricting Gold and Silver Sales in France]

Which appears to be true. Some might argue that you shouldn’t be allowed to purchase anything for more than €450 in cash. I would certainly vote for this, as it would immediately put the European Central Bank (ECB) in the embarrassing position of printing banknotes (the €500) that can only be used for illegal transactions—which, to be fair, is their primary purpose at the moment.

By the way, the mention of the €500 note reminds me of an incredible irony. The note used to be called “the osama” because everyone knew they existed but no-one had ever seen one. Yet it turns out that not only was he eventually seen, he was a fan of the ECB’s work!

Leon Panetta, the CIA Director, has briefed congressmen that the former al-Qaeda leader had 500 euros sewn into his clothing

[From Osama bin Laden was a Europhile – Telegraph Blogs]

So now we’re going to have to think of new nickname for the €500 note. Something that we all know exists, but have never actually seen at first hand. I’m thinking “the Floyd” in honour of the psychedelic landmark 1973 album “The Dark Side of the Moon”.

These are personal opinions and should not be misunderstood as representing the opinions of 
Consult Hyperion or any of its clients or suppliers

1 comment

  1. Went to the scrap dealers here in Belgium a few weeks back and found that they’ve really clamped down for the same reasons enacting some legislation in 2009. Good thing was that no cash is paid out, bad thing this meant that they now give out cheques (but only made out to the person named on the ID). So the 26 EUR that I got for my leftover copper piping probably cost the banking system about 15 EUR to put in my account.

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